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Be Ready for a Fire Marshal Inspection: The Impact of NFPA Code Changes for Fire Systems

Posted on: May 26, 2020

Are you ready for your annual fire marshal inspection? Before you answer yes, you should be aware of recent National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) code changes for fire systems. Failure to change, implement, and/or remedy issues pertaining to these code changes can result in non-compliance. If your building is not up to code, enforcement remedies (including civil penalties) could follow.

Fortunately, there are steps you can take right now to increase your chances of passing a fire marshal inspection.


Preparing for a fire marshal inspection

Depending on your jurisdiction, your business may require a fire marshal inspection every 12-18 months, or 2-3 years. Healthcare organizations with “deemed” status given by The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), are typically inspected every 12-14 months.

First, you should reach out to your Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ) and request a list of requirements in your area or jurisdiction. Next, make sure your NFPA documentation is current, and stored along with all inspection reports, in a central location or digital repository — someplace secure and easily accessible during your next AHJ inspection.

You should also check the tagging on devices and systems to ensure testing is up to date and properly labeled.

Lastly, visually inspect all fire safety systems and devices.

In addition to inspection of sprinklers, alarms, and other fire and life safety systems, the fire marshal will most likely inspect the following:

  • Building construction
  • Doors & corridor openings
  • Fire walls
  • Smoke compartments
  • Means of egress
  • HVAC
  • Elevators
  • Trash chutes
  • Emergency
  • Evacuation plans
  • Fire drills
  • Space heaters
  • Electrical systems
  • Gas equipment

For an in-depth pre-inspection, consider hiring a qualified fire and life safety professional in your area.

Now, let’s take a look at the specific NFPA code changes that may impact your fire systems.

NFPA changes that impact fire systems directly

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA 25) 2017 Edition has some notable changes to fire systems:

  • Sprinkler heads with missing escutcheons and cover plates must either be replaced with their listed escutcheon or cover plate, or the entire sprinkler head must be replaced.
  • New signage requirements for antifreeze loop main valves and hydraulics.
  • Underground flow tests now apply to all private fire service mains.
  • Valve status tests must be performed along with a main drain test whenever a control valve is shut and re-opened at the system riser.
  • Visible piping that supplies the fire department connection must be undamaged (good condition is no longer accepted).
  • Shortage of water supply to sprinkler systems may be cited as an impairment if water supply does not meet the original design requirements for correct flow and pressure.

To obtain a full list of code changes, visit the NFPA website.

How NFPA changes may impact your business

When the NFPA makes code changes, it is your responsibility as the building chief or facilities director, to ensure your business is in compliance. Changes vary from requiring new signage for antifreeze loop main valves, to classifying “water supply” as a piece of equipment that can be impaired. Even subtle code changes can impact compliance schedules and budgets as well as insurance scoring and premiums.

And, if you manage a healthcare facility that has received a “deemed status” from the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) for exceeding expectations in a certain area of expertise, you risk losing funding for critical patient care if you don’t follow new codes and standards.

Depending on the severity of the code violation, you could face one or more of the following consequences:

  • Termination of the provider agreement
  • Temporary management
  • Denial of payment for all Medicare and/or Medicaid individuals by CMS
  • Denial of payment for all new Medicare and/or Medicaid admissions
  • Civil money penalties
  • State monitoring
  • Transfer of residents
  • Transfer of residents with closure of facility
  • Directed plan of correction
  • Directed in-service training
  • Alternative or additional state remedies approved by CMS

Code changes may require that you upgrade, test or replace older devices, or meet additional testing requirements such as those for combination, multi-criteria, or multi-sensor detection systems.

How can a fire and life safety service company help prepare for an inspection?

Depending on the size of your facilities, managing and updating your fire and life safety systems may be a challenging task. You can ensure compliance, replace old equipment, and install new systems by hiring a fire and life safety vendor instead.

In addition to handling monitoring, repairs, emergency calls, and installations, an experienced service provider can:

  • Prepare a comprehensive life safety inspection, testing, and maintenance program so you are prepared on your next survey or inspection with AHJ/Fire Marshal.
  • Provide a cloud-based reporting portal ( where all NFPA reporting is housed in a centralized location and is easy to view, download, e-mail, print, transmit from any mobile device or desktop computer.
  • Correct any outstanding deficiencies across all NFPA disciplines prior to your next AHJ/Fire Marshal inspection.

Keeping up with constant code changes can be a stressful, labor intensive task. With professional guidance, you can ensure your building’s fire and life safety systems are fully functional and compliant.


PSI sets the standard for fire and life safety services in the Pacific Northwest

Performance Systems Integrated (PSI) provides comprehensive fire and life services to schools, property management, hotels, hospitals, and other businesses. For nearly 20 years, we have helped companies throughout Oregon and Washington with monitoring, testing and inspecting, system maintenance, designs and installations, and code compliance consultations.

Our certified staff is on-call 24/7 to handle any fire or life safety emergency service call. To find out more about preparing your building for a fire marshal inspection call our team at PSI today at 503.641.2222 or contact us online.

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